Draft Iraqi constitution an issue for Sunnis
TIKRIT, Iraq — Iraq’s draft constitution could tear the country apart if passed in its current form, leading politicians from the Sunni-dominated Salah ad Din province said this week.
Both the province’s council chairman and governor shared their concerns about the document while discussing security preparations for the Oct. 15 referendum. About 10 percent of the constitution is unacceptable to many Iraqis in the province, said Sheik Rasheed Ahmed, chairman of the Salah ad Din provincial council.
“The people want answers on these items, because, in the future, these items could divide Iraq into pieces,” Ahmed said in an interview.
The constitution could allow oil-rich provinces to form semiautonomous regions that would deprive oil-poor provinces such as Salah ad Din of reaping any economic benefits, Ahmed said.
Salah ad Din provincial Gov. Hamad Hmood Shigti declined to give the constitution a ringing endorsement, though he has said in the past that he would nominally support it because he believed it was his duty as governor.
Shigti said he would not press citizens to vote either way on the referendum, but also said that Sunni voters would not boycott this referendum as they did the Jan. 15 elections.
“I guarantee people are going to participate in the referendum,” Shigti said. “Even patients in the hospital will be transferred to the polls to participate.”
More than 1,000 mobile voting booths will be placed throughout the province, Shigti said.
The constitution’s Article 110 calls for the federal government and regions to jointly “draw up the necessary strategic policies to develop oil and gas wealth to bring the greatest benefit for the Iraqi people.”
However, Article 111 says that when powers are shared between the federal government and the regions, “the priority will be given to the region’s law in case of dispute.”
That has politicians like Ahmed worried about oil-rich provinces passing laws and forming alliances to retain their resources. During the constitution’s drafting, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, political leader of the powerful Shiite-dominated Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, asserted that any of Iraq’s provinces could band together to form a region.
The regional concept originally was intended by constitution framers to protect the rights of northern Kurdish territories, which operated as a semiautonomous region after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. If oil-rich regions use the regional concept for economic gain, it could have dire repercussions, Ahmed said.
“I think this draft of the constitution is going to divide Iraq,” he said.
Article 110 does call for profits from current oil fields to be evenly distributed throughout the country; however, it makes no mention of distributing resources from future discoveries, Ahmed said.
Shigti’s sprawling central Iraq province includes Sunni-dominated cities such as Samarra and Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown. It also includes the more ethnically diverse Kirkuk, along with Balad at the province’s southeast edge.
The constitution will not be adopted if majorities in any three of Iraq’s 18 provinces reject its passage. Sunnis make up a solid majority of Anbar and Salah ad Din provinces, and are thought to hold a slim majority in the northwestern Nineveh province.
One final problem is that the leaders say they do not know if they have an accurate final copy of the drafted document. Officials say a copy sent to Shigti differs markedly from one received by assistant governor for administration Kaseem Majeed Mahmoud.
Iraq’s constitutional committee approved a final draft of the constitution Aug. 28. An Internet search using the keywords “Iraq draft constitution” readily turns up copies of that document, some translated to English by the Associated Press and other news organizations.